Buttoned up generation who wouldn’t back down

Hand-made silk buttons are ten a penny if you know where to look – even ones that are over a hundred years old like this one.  But few are a subtle reminder of a movement which galvanised women across Britain in a bid to win the right to vote.  A Venus symbol picked out in the suffragette colours of purple, white and green, this was one Edwardian woman’s show of support for Emmeline Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union.  The more moderate suffragists fought under a different organisation and a different flag so this suggests real conviction on the part of whoever wore it.

‘Deeds not words’ was the suffragettes’ motto – chaining themselves to railings, disrupting meetings, breaking windows and, of course, most famously, Emily Davison throwing herself under the king’s horse at the Derby in 1913.  A measure of their success is that when we think of the women’s movement of the time it is images of their direct action which come to mind first rather than letters to the Times, petitions or public meetings. But all gestures play their part, even this small button – a discreet memento of a fascinating battle in the struggle for gender equality, not to mention a perfect complement to International Women’s Day 2019!

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